Radical

A word popped into my head the other day and I haven’t been able to shake it.  That word was “radical”. I was reminiscing about the last year, the trials I faced and the mountains I climbed, all with the grace, patience, and love of Jesus.  I’ve spent the last couple of days thinking about how radical my life has changed since Momma left this world and how my life flipped upside down, but what I failed to think about was how radical my life has changed specifically because of Jesus.

Radical can be defined as ‘very different from the usual or traditional’ (Webster’s Dictionary).  Often in my own mind when I hear the word ‘radical’ my thoughts immediately go back to the historic readings I suffered my way through college about radical politicians in far off lands.  These thoughts are primarily hand in hand with less than joyous thoughts.

For the first time ever I have come to define ‘radical’ as something joyous because I have reached a point in my faith journey that I can see the works of God woven throughout my life.  Seeking out Jesus in the midst of the lowest valleys has been a challenging learning experience that I am still improving upon. Once I started to actively seek and pursue Christ and to learn more about Him, my life began to transform.

I can’t pinpoint a specific instance where I felt the transformation begin.  I believe that the small things combined together over time have created this transformation that I’ve only been able to see now through the lens of time, maturity and faith in the sovereignty of God. In another year or two, I’ll probably be sitting here reviewing this current point in my life and seeing the bigger lessons in the rearview mirror that the Lord has taught me.  

A few months after Momma died, my best friend Sis gave birth to her second son.  I remember the day clearly, I was waiting anxiously in my apartment for any update as I completed my normal housekeeping tasks.  I was ecstatic when I got the text from Ryan, Sis’s husband, telling me that baby was here after all that waiting and mom was doing well.  They invited me up to the hospital that evening to visit. That night I held a baby for the first time ever and it was the beginning of something I had most certainly not planned.

After living with Sis and Ryan for a couple of months later that year, I had experienced how much fun and hard work it was to be a part of a village to raise tiny humans.  I learned 90% of what I know about babies through that time alone and became a person who didn’t bat an eye when it came to picking boogers out of a toddler’s nose while feeding the baby a bottle.

A few more months down the line, after I moved home following Dad’s death I began searching for jobs.  I ended up online searching for babysitting gigs. I could do this, I had already mastered two kids under four, I felt pretty qualified at this point.  I found a family with not just two kids three and under…but three, that’s right three.  Their family story is marvelous and filled with so much love, and one that I am so thankful to have been a part of, but is not my own to share.  

This was where I felt like I didn’t have a clue on what to do when I first showed up.  I was outnumbered by tiny humans and there was a lot of fussiness involved. The first month or two I had moments where I was really frazzled and felt like I was failing as a caregiver even though at the end of the day I fed those tiny humans, educated them through play, and loved them.  All of the basic needs were met but I felt frazzled all the same. I remember thinking “I can do so much better than this!” My need to be perfect was being jumped on by the enemy who was trying to use it to discourage me.

Within my time with this family I began to feel God put it on my heart that my calling was to work with kids.  I knew that my body (namely my back) wasn’t going to be able to handle nannying for the rest of my life but what other options did that leave me?  I felt myself fearing that I was never going to live up to this calling because of the physical demands. I continued to pray about this knowing that if I worried about it in the moment I was only succumbing into the negative thoughts I had been tempted into believing.

At the end of July I began to push to find a full time job to support myself.  It wasn’t that I was unhappy nannying but I had a financial need that required a full time schedule.  I applied to businesses left and right. I tried to hype myself up for a potential job back in the lodging industry where I originally was before Momma died.  I was waiting for a call back from a job I really wanted in an early childhood program, one that would allow me to work with kids closest to the ages I was already working with.

The phone call didn’t come and  I was desperate enough I accepted an assistant manager position to Burger King in north Wichita.  I felt it so deeply and wholly in my body and soul that this was not where I was supposed to be that I continued to apply to jobs as I finished paperwork that week.

I applied to a local school district for every open position that didn’t require a teaching license or a CDL.  The next day I received a phone call from the high school principal asking me if it was too early to bring me in two days from then to interview.  I knew then that God had his hand all over this situation. I had never gotten such a quick turn around to a job application before but I was absolutely thrilled at the idea…except it was high schoolers.  I knew it took a special kind of person to work with high schoolers but I believed that I was not that person. I went in for the interview and for the first time ever I wasn’t nervous about the outcome. A few short days later I was called and offered the job, exactly a week after I applied.

I knew God had his hand all over this new job between how quick and seamlessly it seemed to move I had no one else to thank but Him for His perfect timing.  Shortly after starting this job, I had a stark realization. Kids didn’t just mean babies an hour old to five years old. Kids also meant high schoolers, you know, the ones I was just saying took a special kind of person to work with…a person that wasn’t me?  Sometimes I feel like God is laughing at me and my little human tendencies to be so narrow minded. When I finally accepted that high schoolers really weren’t that bad and was open minded to letting God take full control over my career (or my lack thereof) I became much less worried about where I was going to be in five, ten and fifteen years from now.

I’m not saying that I don’t still worry about where I’ll be in five years…or ten.  I still worry because that’s a human thing to do. What has changed though, is being able to recognize when I’m giving the worry too much power and taking it to the cross.  Matthew 6: 31-34 says this “So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and our heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

That last bit always gets me, “each day has enough trouble of its own”.  Although it can be so easy to fall into the worrying trap and spend large chunks of everyday worrying about the future of my life, there is more to life than living in worry.  I can rest assured that by listening and obeying God calling me to work with kids that I am living a life trusting in His plan. Proverbs encourages me in this, reading: “Many are the plan’s in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21) That though the Lord’s purpose will prevail, why should I fight it with worry? It’s reminds when Momma used to give me a set of chores to do on the weekend.  I could choose to do them all at once or spread them out…but those chores got done one way or another because that’s just how things rolled in her house!

I don’t think I have it all down, what it means to live with a radical faith in Jesus, but I think this specific season of life has given me the best example to continue.  Continue to seek Jesus and to know him. Learn about him and not only trust in him but to live my life following him through my words and actions.

Much love,

Jessie Jo


Listed below are pieces of scripture I read, prayed on, and studied during the course of writing.   I encourage you to look them up and read them yourselves, don’t just take my word!

  • Matthew 6: 31-34
  • Proverbs 19:21
  • Psalm 33:10-11
  • Isaiah 14:26-27
  • Isaiah 46:10
  • Acts 5:39
  • Hebrews 6:17
  • Matthew 11:28-30
  • John 15: 5

Green Grass

The first super sunny day after we had back to back batches of ice in the month of February had me happy.  It seemed like we were getting all of our winter in just one week and the sunshine was very appreciated.  The grass on my little two acres (sarcasm here, because two acres can be a handful when it’s just one person) was starting to poke through the leftover ice…and it was green. 

After a rough several months of journeying through family birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then death anniversaries all while pulling myself together to appear okay to the outside world; I needed that sunshine and green grass.  It was my light at the end of the tunnel.

I used to hate the thought around this time of spring, and green grass, and sunshine, because that meant allergies, lots of mowing, sunburns and hot Kansas days.  After the winter months I’ve experienced this year, being confined indoors during some of the coldest weather I’ve ever experienced, I welcome the thought of being able to run around outside with my dogs.

I’ve learned a lot in this season life, particularly about how I have been coping and healing of my grief as yet another season of life is passing by.  I’ve learned that even on a cloudy day, having the windows open to let the sun is can make or break my general mood for the day.  Even if I leave my bedroom shades drawn, if I have every other window open to let the light of the outside world in, my mood lifts.  I have also learned that if I don’t do my dishes right away they’re probably going to sit and collect in the sink until the sink is overflowing, or I have exhausted every utensil or bowl or plate in the house and am forced to do dishes.

I’m not saying that as soon as I figured these two specific patterns out that I was able to combat them and make a change.  Absolutely the reverse happened.  It was like I was stuck.  Winter has been rough on me, especially since it coincides with all those special dates I mentioned before.  I allowed myself to make the decision to ignore dishes, and to ignore giving myself a little bit of happiness by opening the windows.

But green grass.  Something about that green grass got to my heart.  It’s the renewing energy I needed to get out of this slump; a slump that had me pretty darn low for the first time in a year.

I feel as I’m moving into a new season of life that it is occurring directly as our weather seasons are beginning to change.  It won’t be long before I start sneezing every time I open the door, or window, or even think of going outside.  It won’t be long before I’m maneuvering around this property for the second year mowing as I have some lengthy talks with God.

Before I know it, even this season that I’m now thankful for, will be coming to an end.  But as Matthew 6:34 (AMP) reads:

“So do not worry about tomorrow;

for tomorrow will worry about itself.

Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

It Was A Thursday

Timehop is a blessing and a curse, especially for the time leading up and following the death of my parents because it drags all the good, the bad, and the ugly right back up.  Today, two years ago, my Momma went in for a procedure to place a tube in her abdomen so she could start peritoneal dialysis.  That day was the beginning of a topsy turvy week and a half that none of us ever, ever expected.

Why am I writing this now?  Well, I’ve been told by a grief counselor that writing memories down as they appear, even a word or two, can help.  I feel too that this is the first time I’m truly getting to experience some of this in a clear head because a year ago I was so incredibly angry after Dad died.  I know this because close friends told me how I was itching for a fight, my resting bitch face was glued on my faced, and man, what little I did journal, it was angry all right.

So yeah, dialysis. We went to the kidney doctor’s office where they were doing the same day procedure to put the tube in.  I remember I had packed all of my school books and laptop that morning because I was trying to get ahead for the semester.  It was my last semester at Butler and we didn’t know how Mom’s treatment plan would play out.  I was taking on extra responsibilities even before this day.  Grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, extra errands, laundry, etc.  Mom was too tired and exhausted from the kidney failure to do any small part of what she used to do daily.

There I was in the small waiting room, books spread across five chairs trying to focus on working on assignments with questions in the back of my head about the coming days, weeks, and months.  And of course my brother texting me for updates, updates that I didn’t have yet.

Then I remember one of the doctors coming out and telling us that they were starting her on emergency dialysis as soon as they placed the tube.  Typically they would have waited a couple of weeks before starting her dialysis treatment to let the skin heal around the tube and making it more secure.  It boiled down to the fact that was she was stage five of renal failure and looked it.  Looking back on it, I think this was when everyone finally got on the same page I was on when Mom was in the emergency room maybe a week and a half before this day: she’s in bad shape and we’ve gotta do something.

Before any of this happened we were sent to a counseling session as a family with a dialysis nurse.  There were three other families there and they had requested the whole family be there.  So my brother flew in from Texas and we went.  Five hours of information being thrown at us, most of it sticking, most of it just difficult to swallow.  It was January 28.

At the counseling session they explained to us everything about renal failure, what it was, how it can progress, symptoms, etc.  Then they explained the options of treatment.  Then they showed us all the equipment.  Taught us how to do home peritoneal dialysis.

So, sitting there with Momma as they hooked her up to the machine and the dialysate began its journey through the long tubing I remembered thinking “okay, this is happening.  this is our life now.”

What I had not been expecting was the conversation about DNRs and living wills.  Though the fact that she was stage five maybe wouldn’t have changed even with months of dialysis, her symptoms would have been eased.  We were clinging to hope of seeing Mom early retire (she had been kind of salty about this at first, but then got on board) and begin doing whatever the hell she wanted, when she wanted.  She talked about gardening again, enthused with the idea that she could be planting tomatoes in a few months.  We talked about me building a raised flower bed for her so she could plant flowers again.  DNRs and living wills had never crossed my mind.

Peach Cobbler

If there was one thing I missed the most out of everything my Momma used to make in the kitchen it’s her peach cobbler.  This peach cobbler was fought over, hidden, and used as bribery for years.  It’s a simple recipe but no matter how I or anyone else try to recreate it, it’s just not the same.

Last night I wanted to do some prep work for the Superbowl party and make a couple of things so it would be less to do before the actual party.  I called my friend Faith and asked if she wanted to come help me.  I didn’t want to go it alone even though I had two simple recipes to follow.

The kitchen was the one I stood beside my Momma, my Aunt Nancy, and a few others many many times cooking for dinners and special events when I was a kid.  I think maybe back then I was in the way most of the time but I still remember having fun helping the ladies in the kitchen make all that food for a packed banquet hall.

The building this kitchen is in has changed a lot over the years.  So much so that everything from one end of the building to the opposite has been flipped, updated, and all the nice bits and bobs have been added.  The one thing that remained almost the exact same was this kitchen.

Sometimes it’s so overwhelming to be in the building I spent my childhood in now that I’ve lost both of my parents.  It’s overwhelming when there’s a large crowd of people at the bar and I catch myself looking over my shoulder waiting and searching for the smiles and laughters of my parents, Uncle Ricky, and other family friends that are no longer alive.  In the kitchen though, it’s a calm escape to the chaos filled memories of the kitchen I remember as a little girl.

There was one of these events that requested that Momma make her peach cobbler for dessert.  There were at least three hotel sized pans of cobbler waiting to be dished out and served sitting in the kitchen.  Enter Uncle Ricky and Uncle Don.  A serving spoon or two, if memory is correct this is how the story went, Uncle Rick and Uncle Don were caught eating out of the cobbler pan.  I think had anyone else gotten caught eating cobbler out of the pan for guests I think they probably would have gotten their butts kicked to a new dimension.

 

I long ago gave up trying to recreate Momma’s cobbler.  I accepted eventually that the day she died there were somethings that just weren’t going to be the same.  I found a recipe for peach cake similar to something that I’d made before, it was no peach cobbler but it worth a shot.  So Faith and  I made it together as we talked about life.  It wasn’t until after I pulled the cake out of the oven that I remembered Uncle Rick and Uncle Don in this very same kitchen all those years ago.

It’s not Momma’s cobbler but it’s my peach cake, and I think it’s a wonderful new tradition.

Those Eggs

I was standing over my kitchen sink peeling eggs when a memory slapped me in the face. My mom did nearly everything for a holiday dinner on her own, but she usually delegated the eggs to my dad.

She would put the dozen (or more, depending on who was going to be at dinner) eggs in the biggest pot she had and boil them.  Then she’d cool them down and pass them off to Dad.

Dad would sit in his recliner with his feet on his footstool watching tv, probably Oak Island or Forrest Gump would be safe guesses.  He’d lay out some old newspaper on his lap and begin peeling the eggs.

Mom meanwhile would be doing something else in the kitchen.  Most likely making a pie because it seemed like the pie to person ratio was quite elevated – but who’s asking anyway?

Eventually the pot of eggs would be chauffeured back to the kitchen, mostly begrudgingly by me.  Then, after Mom would rinse the eggs off and begin to halve them would come what became routine.

“Ronal Dee!”  An egg was missing.  At least one egg was missing.

Dad would laugh coyly, trying to pretend he hadn’t taken an egg from the pile and she’d simply miscounted.

The thing was Mom tried to make her deviled eggs the night before a holiday dinner, but they’d mysteriously be presented on the table at dinner several short.  Dad was known for sneaking into the fridge late at night and stealing eggs.

This year was the first Thanksgiving without both of my parents here and it was oddly okay.  I don’t know if I thought I was going to be carrying around a heavy proverbial brick or what, but it was okay.  More than okay I think.  I was excited to have my brother home and our close friends whom we consider family join us for dinner and card games.

I stepped up and said about a month or so ago that I wanted to have Thanksgiving at my house.  I knew it would be difficult between managing all the things that go into a Thanksgiving spread and then the emotions of this new season.  But I’m so grateful I followed through with my gut and what I felt convicted to do for this holiday.  My main reason for hosting was I felt it was time to make happy memories again in this house and feel like that goal was satisfied.

I’ll be the first to admit that my eggs are nowhere near as great as my Mom’s was but then again, she had many many more years of perfecting them than my one measly attempt.

Do you have any favorite holiday memories with your friends and family?

 

Preparing for the Feast

35% battery on my phone, my “Never Ending To Do List” notebook with my shopping list, tangled headphones, an empty cart, and The Bobby Bones Show replay podcast was how my Sunday night adventure began.

Typically I am only shopping for one person to eat for a week.  Not for several people for one large meal so I struggled a bit at first with the shopping list.  When I make a shopping list for myself I don’t mind if I stray off of it if I find something that piques my stomach’s interest.  Tonight however, I had a strict list I needed to stay on.

I learned that my store doesn’t carry a box of just plastic knives.  I have an overabundance of plastic forks and spoons, but lacking in the knives.  Looks like we’ll survive with our pocket knives because I’m not going to multiple stores in search of plastic knives.  I also learned that when I actually need a someone to help me locate an item, I can’t find an employee anywhere.

Admittedly, I almost ran over a man in my way to the checkout line.  He came out of nowhere, walked in front of my very full cart and then proceeded to give me the stink eye as if I interrupted his whole day with my cart.

I feel a little better now that I can cross a trip to the store off my list of to dos for this week, but on the flip side I feel like there isn’t enough coffee and wine in the world to get me through the rest of this week – this is just the beginning of it all.

Tonight I am thankful for my momma watching over me.  Though this was my first time shopping for a Thanksgiving meal by myself, I felt as if I had done it before and I know it had to be her guiding me along the way.

Now, if I could only find her recipe for lemon meringue pie.